Back in January, I posted an entry entitled "A Musical Oddity" about hearing the Yayhoos' version of ABBA's "Dancing Queen" on Hillbilly Jim's Moonshine Matinee show on XM radio. Since then, I've heard several more odd things on XM, but none as odd (and bad) as the Oak Ridge Boys' cover of John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" I heard earlier today.
When I got home I immediately Googled "Oak Ridge Boys Boom Boom" hoping beyond hope this was something the Oak Ridge Boys recorded years ago and that whomever the DJ was today on Outlaw Country was playing the cut as a joke. Unfortunately, the Google search led me to a May 19th Washington Post review of the Oak Ridge Boys latest CD. It seems the Oak Ridge Boys are trying to revitalize their career with a CD of songs orginally from other genres, including songs originally recorded by Neil Young and the White Stripes.
Back in the 1990s, Johnny Cash's career had fallen to the level of fading country legend. Cash was then approached by American Recordings owner Rick Rubin about a recording contract. Rubin had the idea of having Cash come into the studio with just his guitar and letting Cash record whatever he wanted. Cash ended up recording a collection of songs that became his comeback CD, American Recordings. The CD consisted of songs written by songwriters such as Nick Lowe, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Cash himself. Cash went on to record several more CDs for American before his death, all of which were critically acclaimed.
Since Cash had his success by stepping away from the country music industry cookie cutter, several older acts, including Loretta Lynn, have made similar moves hoping to jump start their careers. This latest Oak Ridge Boys CD seems to be their attempt at a jump start. Unfortunately, for the Oak Ridge Boys (and us), they do not have the one quality that made Cash's stint at American a success, the ability to make any song their own. During Cash's stint at American, he could make the listener forget there ever were orginal version of the songs he covered. I doubt the Oak Ridge Boys would ever be able to do that.
My advice to the Oak Ridge is to follow the lead of acts such as Carl Smith and the Statler Brothers. Those acts retired with dignity after realizing the country music world wasn't what it was when their careers were at their zeniths. I doubt that anyone would have wanted to hear Carl Smith or the Statler Brothers cover something like "Livin' la Vida Loca", which I'll venture to guess may be on the Oak Ridge Boys next CD.